Manatees Spotted In Jackson County Bayou

A surprising sight has intrigued many people in Jackson County. People who live in the Herring Bayou area, have spotted manatees in the water near their homes. Since last week, they've been calling the Department of Marine Resources to share what they've seen.

Kerry Kuhn has lived in Jackson County all of his life. But this week... he saw something he'd never seen before.

"Friday was the first time I'd seen them. My dog, she got to barking at something, and I couldn't figure out what she was barking at. This woman on the dock stopped me and asked me if we had manatees around here. I told her as far as I know we didn't. I told her she was seeing gators," Kuhn said.

But these weren't alligators in Herring Bayou. They're manatees.

We didn't see any on our two hour search of the bayou, but the officials with the Department of Marine Resources say many people have spotted them. More than 20 people have called in sightings in the last week.

"We get a sighting or two of manatees every year, but what we don't get is a group of manatees. And apparently this is a group of eight to 12 manatees. That's very uncommon," Dr. Keith Mullin with the National Marine Fisheries said.

These mammals are hundreds of miles north of their habitat.

"They migrate from Florida. That's the only closest place I know that's got them round here," Kuhn said.

That makes fisherman like Kuhn a little nervous.

"If you're in a small enough boat, you know what I mean, one 10 or 12 feet long, real narrow, they'd be big enough to turn the boat over."

Or if you're in a larger boat and you hit a manatee, you can kill it easily. That's why the DMR says its mission now is to catch the slow moving mammals and steer them home.

The operation to move the manatees begins Tuesday. If you see a manatee in your area, you can call the DMR at 228-374-5000.

by Claire Nelson